When I was in high school, I decided that I was going to be a nurse because I always wanted to “take care of people who needed help and to bring some happiness into their lives.” At that time, I hadn’t realized what a noble calling that was.
But I thought that perhaps I should “test” myself and see how I would feel and react to a hospital setting and experiencing being with people who were ill and/or disabled. I was totally lacking in that sort of experience.
So, during my Junior year, and during the summer, I volunteered in the “Jewish Hospital for Chronic Diseases,” in Brooklyn, NY, a hospital/nursing home for chronically-ill and disabled patients, with room for hundreds. (I don’t think it exists anymore.) The setup was in very large wards, containing approximately 20-30 beds. No private rooms. This was a hospital for indigent patients.
Those who were able, participated in a patient-controlled and staff-approved social club, and they managed to arrange for their own entertainment. They were making the best of their situation – some would be there for the rest of their lives (many were young people). In all the time I spent in that facility, I hardly ever saw visitors for the patients, but they seemed to have accepted their lot in life and they seemed happy and joyous and capable of, yes, excitement. (Remember, I’m thinking back to the time I was a young teenager, and trying to experience again, my feelings and perceptions.)
There was an organizer/leader – his name was Manny, and he had his “secretary” and “treasurer.” Manny was the most social person you could ever imagine. He was wheel-chair bound and was one of the most intelligent, jovial, thoughtful people I think I had ever, and have ever, met in my life. He was suffering from MS.
If the patients smiled and laughed any harder, I swear their faces would split apart.
Manny immediately put me at ease and welcomed me so warmly. I told him I was there as a volunteer and had scheduled myself to give at least 10 hours during the week and some on the weekend as well. I made his day and many more. During the summer, I devoted more. Visitors were a treasured commodity.
I found myself feeling that I found a second home. The best thing for me was the feeling of great joy that I felt, in the giving. Yes, volunteering had its own, unexpected, rewards.
[All images from bingdotcom]